CRESTVIEW The Crestview Public Safety Academy, whose first class graduated Dec. 5, will return next spring, said community policing officer Wanda Hulion, the program's administrator.


CRESTVIEW The Crestview Public Safety Academy, whose first class graduated Dec. 5, will return next spring, said community policing officer Wanda Hulion, the program's administrator.



And graduates of the 10-week course which teaches residents the inner workings of first responders' operations could expect an advanced course, Police Chief Tony Taylor said.



"I'm very pleased with this class," he said. "This program will do nothing but grow."



Graduates can help by generating interest among residents for the second class, he said.



That shouldn't be difficult, based on some of the 11 graduates' enthusiastic reactions after completing the course.



"I was hoping to learn what the police department does, and I found out they do a whole lot more than I thought they did," Joyce Heath said.



Her husband, Obie, and their classmates learned about police, fire, judicial and legal public safety services from agencies including Crestview's police and fire departments, the state attorney's office, defense attorneys, the court system and the Child Advocacy Center.



Students learned about communications, evidence gathering, investigations, domestic violence, traffic enforcement, chaplaincy, police patrol, drug investigation, firearm safety, the SWAT team and firefighting.



"The goal was to give them a glimpse of our world," Taylor said.



That mission was accomplished, if Crestview High School senior Michael Mitchem's reaction is an indication.



"I liked it more than school," he said.



Academy graduates represented a range of ages. Michael, who is also in the Police Explorers club, will enter the Marine Corps upon high school graduation in June. He joined retirees and others who participated in the program.



Glenn Goll, a retired corrections officer who had experience in policing while a Marine, said the program satisfied his curiosity.



"You don't know about the internal workings of a police department," he said. "This was very enlightening."



Graduates agreed that firing weapons on the shooting range ranked high among their favorite lessons.



"I had never fired a hand gun," Linda Mitchem said. "I was pretty nervous, but (Lt.) Andrew (Schneider) is a really good teacher. He put us so at ease. When he offered us a chance to shoot another round, I jumped on it."



Mitchem, Michael's mother, said she felt pride when she successfully shot a target.



"I killed a Smurf!" she laughed, likening the blue silhouette on the target to the blue Belgian cartoon trolls.



"It was fun but we worked hard," graduate Linda Parker said.



WANT TO GO?



Call Community Policing Officer Wanda Hulion, 682-3544, for details on the Crestview Public Safety Academy's spring course



Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or brianh@crestviewbulletin.com. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.